Embattled FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, who is at the center of claims of corruption and bribery in soccer’s governing body, has confirmed that the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup has been suspended.
“Due to the situation, I think it’s nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being. It will be postponed,” said Valcke. The bidding had been set to begin this month, with a vote in 2017. FIFA is going through arguably its worst crisis since its founding in 1904 following the resignation of longtime President Sepp Blatter, the arrest of several officials, and two investigations by U.S. and Swiss authorities into the organization. To make matters worse, United Passions, a FIFA-backed film which chronicles the group’s emergence, has been excoriated by critics and earned only $607 in its U.S. release last weekend.
In February this year, FIFA announced it had extended Fox and Telemundo’s deals to cover the 2026 tournament for U.S. English-speaking and Spanish-speaking rights, respectively. In October 2011, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox outbid Disney’s ESPN and Comcast’s NBC for the English-speaking rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups for a guaranteed $425 million. NBCUniversal’s Telemundo Spanish networks paid $600 million for the U.S.-based Spanish-language TV rights. Somewhat controversially the rights were extended to Fox and Telemundo without being opened to tender to third-party bids. That led to speculation the extension was to compensate Fox and Telemundo for the planned shifting of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from its traditional summer slot to a proposed winter timeline in December.
That decision, of course, predates the current controversy that has engulfed the organization following a disputed presidential election week that saw U.S. and Swiss authorities swoop on a luxury Swiss hotel to arrest a number high-ranking FIFA and football-associated executives. Even though Blatter emerged victorious in the election against Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, he resigned only days later amidst growing sponsor pressure and claims he was also now under investigation by the FBI.
Aside from the 2026 World Cup, it remains to be seen whether the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will remain with their respective hosts Russia and Qatar. Both those awards, which took place in a simultaneous bidding process in 2010, are now under close scrutiny amidst allegation of bribery.
Valcke made today’s announcement side by side with the Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who again defended his country’s successful bid as in line with the law and taking place as planned.